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Open threads

Feb 25, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

Have at it!

Andrew Bolt

Feb 24, 2009

5 comments

Andrew Bolt has clearly been sweating bullets since Pure Poison was launched. Just now he has written about us for the third time since we kicked off last Thursday, and for the third time he has refused to name or link to this blog for fear that his readers might get the other side of his paranoid story and make up their own minds.

As part of Bolta’s campaign to misinform his readers he has mercilessly chopped up my words, conveniently leaving out links to proof of his biased, unfair and unethical comment moderation practices. Here’s what I wrote on Friday.

Anybody who has been unlucky enough to spend time wading through the comment threads at Bolt or Blair’s blogs know that their commenters (supporters and opponents) can say some pretty poisonous things. However, the uneven moderation policy at both sites tends to filter out a lot of comments that are roughly critical of the writers, on the grounds that they use abusive language or that the commenter is “trolling” (repeating themselves over and over.) The hypocrisy is stark given that the same abusive language and trolling behaviours are apparent in (published) supportive comments.

The best part about all of this is that Bolta has the nerve to link commenting at his blog to exercising free speech! Hands up if you’ve ever had a comment rejected at his blog. Hands up if it was nowhere near as poisonous as a published comment who agreed with the writer.

And it’s not just moderation with extreme prejudice at play here. Comments at Bolt’s (not sure about Blair’s) are routinely “snipped” if Mr Bolt becomes bored with reading them, and comments at Bolt’s have even been outright edited for content. In that particular case, when the commenter in question asked for an explanation he was labelled a “troll” and told to go away.

So it’s time for Pure Poison to use the combined resources of its readership to collect the most poisonous examples of comments at the blogs of Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair. Every month I’ll kick off a comment thread where you can cut-and-paste the poisonous comments you find (try to include a link where possible.) Remember that we’re looking for poisonous comments from commenters who agree and disagree with Bolt and Blair.

I’ll place a link to this post at the top of the sidebar so it’s easy to find once it sinks down the page.

Have at it!

And here’s that same block of text with the bits that Andrew didn’t reprint for his readers crossed out.

Anybody who has been unlucky enough to spend time wading through the comment threads at Bolt or Blair’s blogs know that their commenters (supporters and opponents) can say some pretty poisonous things. However, the uneven moderation policy at both sites tends to filter out a lot of comments that are roughly critical of the writers, on the grounds that they use abusive language or that the commenter is “trolling” (repeating themselves over and over.) The hypocrisy is stark given that the same abusive language and trolling behaviours are apparent in (published) supportive comments.

The best part about all of this is that Bolta has the nerve to link commenting at his blog to exercising free speech! Hands up if you’ve ever had a comment rejected at his blog. Hands up if it was nowhere near as poisonous as a published comment who agreed with the writer.

And it’s not just moderation with extreme prejudice at play here. Comments at Bolt’s (not sure about Blair’s) are routinely “snipped” if Mr Bolt becomes bored with reading them, and comments at Bolt’s have even been outright edited for content. In that particular case, when the commenter in question asked for an explanation he was labelled a “troll” and told to go away.

So it’s time for Pure Poison to use the combined resources of its readership to collect the most poisonous examples of comments at the blogs of Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair. Every month I’ll kick off a comment thread where you can cut-and-paste the poisonous comments you find (try to include a link where possible.) Remember that we’re looking for poisonous comments from commenters who agree and disagree with Bolt and Blair.

I’ll place a link to this post at the top of the sidebar so it’s easy to find once it sinks down the page.

Have at it!

Bolt also implies that the editor of Crikey, Jonathan Green, has tried to weasel out of denying his publication’s involvement in supposed planting of racist comments at Bolt’s blog by Pure Poison, calling Green’s denial a “non-reply”. Here is Green’s “non-reply”.

The claim in this post that an internet publication connected to Crikey publisher Eric Beecher might be making mischievous postings on this and other blogs is utterly without foundation. We presume Andrew is referring to Crikey. Presumably not to Business Spectator or the other finance-based titles in Mr Beecher’s Private Media stable. We have not made, nor have any persons connected to Crikey made, any comment posts on the Bolt blog aimed at testing the boundaries of the blog’s moderation policy. We do not do this, would not do this, and resent the implication that we might have done this. The suggestion above borders on the defamatory.

Seems pretty bloody clear to me.

UPDATE: Just for clarity, I know that Bolt is very carefully and disingenuously ensuring that he never accuses us or other Crikey staff of actually writing the comments, sticking with the line that we’re encouraging them, but there’s what you say by saying it, and what you say by not saying it. It’s like Donald Rumsfeld’s “known knowns” thang, but different.

UPDATE II: Chances of this comment getting approved?

UPDATE III: Comment approved with — surprise, surprise! — modifications.

So Bolt and his moderators go to extreme lengths to replace “Pure Poison” with “ERIC BEECHER’S SITE” in all approved comments (including mine), and then carelessly leave our blog’s name in the first reply to my modified comments. Slick, Bolt. Slick.

UPDATE IV: (This is all getting very Blair with the updates, innit?) Mere minutes after I published update III the comment containing our blog’s name was disappeared.

UPDATE V: Oh, dear. Bolt’s moderators aren’t having a very good night, with a link to Pure Poison slipping through in a comment by Tobias and remaining on the site for nearly an hour despite “Infidel Tiger” dobbing on him.

UPDATE VI: (This update thing is fun! No wonder Tim loves it.) Jeremy wins best SNIP ever.

Piers Akerman

Feb 24, 2009

5 comments

Another week, another Piers. Mr Akerman’s latest piece starts off innocently enough as an analysis of the nature and mechanics of mourning in the wake of the tragic Victorian bushfires, but inevitably (and inexplicably) ends up in familiar Piers territory: self-promotion and eeeeevil leftist teacher-bashing.

Takes a few pars, though. At the head of the article Akerman raises fair points and asks valid questions, in the process mentioning the level of political representation at the Rod Laver Arena memorial service, and pondering the unlikely possibility of closure so soon after the disaster, or even at all.

The focus then turns to the media’s coverage of the situation in the days and weeks after the actual fires, using the views of a psychologist who believes that the media plays an important role in helping victims of tragedy, along with the wider population, deal with grief.

Now, I’m going to neither slam nor agree with Piers’ (and the psychologist’s) arguments about the way this bushfire has played out in the media because, along with many other people, I’m genuinely torn — I think some of the stuff I’ve seen has been vulgar and opportunistic, and some of the stuff I’ve seen has stayed on the correct side of the sensitivity line. However, I couldn’t let this stunning line go past without comment.

While it is fashionable for left-leaning teachers to portray the media as the constant adversary because the press has the capacity to expose the Left’s penchant for profligate spending on unnecessary, even damaging, programs, this tragedy has brought out the very best in the Australian press and demonstrated that the media is more likely to be the most constant friend those in genuine need will ever find.

What in the name of Ceiling Cat is that? Leftist teachers learning kids wrong to prevent them from seeing teh Truth? If it wasn’t so paranoid I’d laugh. (Actually, I lie. I did laugh.)

The rest of the article quickly descends into a shameless plug for the goodness and light that is News Ltd. — absolutely coincidentally the organisation that pays Piers’ expenses account — and the awesome things that its newspapers have done to help victims and Australians in general deal with the terrible events of Black Saturday. Because Fairfax’s The Age didn’t do anything. Not a thing. Even bumped the fires off the front page for a lifestyle feature about the best laneways and coffee shops in Melbourne.

I’m sure that the Herald Sun‘s free guide for affected Victorians and sympathetic coverage in the aftermath helped people sort out their lives and grieve, but Piers must be absolutely deluded if he thinks that News Ltd. wasn’t trying to associate their brand with their empathy and largesse. Just like every other corporation that did good, commendable things in a time of great need.

Tim Blair

Feb 24, 2009

5 comments

Fellow Crikey blogger (and supportive friend of this site in its first days) Mark Bahnisch has been mocked by both Tim Blair and The Australian for failing to predict the calling of the Queensland election.

Bahnisch remained skeptical long after the Australian had decided, weeks ago, that an early election was about to be called and resolved to repeat that prediction relentlessly until it happened. Instead he insisted on highlighting the flimsiness of the paper’s arguments right up until the prediction (not the argument) eventually came true. Which it did, since obviously Bligh did have to call an election at some point…

So News Ltd is happily crowing over what it’s trying to portray as its victory, mocking Bahnisch simply because he didn’t adopt – and was openly cynical regarding – their “repeat prediction over and over until it becomes true” soothsaying strategy. (By the way, I predict that Kevin Rudd will call an early election some time between now and 2011. You heard it here first.) Sure, Bahnisch was wrong in the specifics of what Bligh subsequently decided to do – but no more so than anyone else who tries their hand at predicting the future. And his criticisms of the flimsy basis for The Australian‘s predictions were quite reasonable, as anyone can see by following the links.

Speaking of which, do you think The Australian’s editors intended to send a whole lot of web traffic Bahnisch’s way on the very day he launched a competing Crikey election blog?

Pure Science

Feb 24, 2009

5 comments

Most of our work here at Pure Poison deals with taking on specific instances of intellectual dishonesty in the media. We’re aiming to dismantle the flawed arguments and promote a genuine exchange of ideas. But it’s also important to step back and look at the processes of thinking and communication that help intellectual dishonesty to flourish. That’s where Pure Science comes in.

A study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, investigated people’s perceptions of bias in scientific research. UC Berkeley has issued a media release about the study, but it has been published in the February 2009 issue of the journal Political Psychology and is currently available for free online. Let’s take a look at the study and what it might tell us about how columnists and their readers might misinterpret research findings.
Continue reading “Pure Science: Seeing ideological bias in research findings”

Open threads

Feb 24, 2009

5 comments

We love having you comment here at Pure Poison but it’s a little bit difficult for discussion to continue uninterrupted on specific posts when off-topic comments land in the middle of them. So each day we’ll launch an open thread where you can leave comments that don’t quite fit on one of the other posts. Remember that tip-offs can be made here.

Have at it!

Andrew Bolt

Feb 23, 2009

5 comments

Recycled dishonesty.

I noticed much the same with the wind farm near Wonthaggi during the worst of Victoria’s heat wave:

28/1 3:00pm CALM

28/1 09:00am 4km/h

28/1 06:00am 4km/h

27/1 3:00pm 7km/h

27/1 09:00am 9km/h

27/1 06:00am 4km/h

26/1 03:00pm 15km/h

26/1 09:00am CALM

26/1 06:00am CALM

Recycled rebuttal.

Of course, Andy has selectively selected some days this week that show poor wind speeds, during a heatwave that features hot north winds and not the prevailing south-west winds for which the turbines were designed. He has also completely ignored wind data for the rest of January and previous months that show much more robust gusts of wind.

Andrew Bolt

Feb 23, 2009

5 comments

Just to set the record absolutely straight, Pure Poison is in no way responsible for a supposed attack on Andrew Bolt’s blog by identity-stealing insurgents, for which Bolt points his finger squarely at us.

Dear readers,

I have just deleted from this thread a comment from a reader saying he wished he’d “assassinated” Bob Brown to save lives. It is a disgusting comment that would be repudiated by every regular reader of this blog..

But remember my warning on Saturday that suddenly some people were writing in under fake names, trying to put up vile comments under the pretence that they were my supporters? I’ve since been informed that this may have something to do with a publication of Mr Eric Beecher, the well-known crusader for “quality journalism”.

Whatever. And anyway, Andrew does enough to “steal the reputation” of his own blog without us having to plant bogus comments. Just today (in the same post) he explicitly blames “greens” for making the Black Saturday bushfires worse because of plantation forest carbon offset schemes. I mean, how dare people plant trees?

(Also, how about linking to Pure Poison, Bolta, so that your readers can make up their own minds?)

Clive Hamilton

Feb 23, 2009

5 comments

Clive Hamilton’s flimsy defence in The Australian last week of Stephen Conroy’s ill-conceived internet filtering scheme, is a nastily flawed polemic that I can’t let pass without comment.

First, he spends the first five paragraphs, a quarter of his article, on a bizarrely detailed fictional tale of a young boy finding pornography on the internet – a hypothetical situation the filter wouldn’t prevent unless it was to block all legal, X-rated porn from adults, which Conroy claims is not the plan – and concludes that the question this raises is:

Do we believe easy access to these sorts of images causes harm to some or all of the boys and girls who view them? If so, how should we respond to it?

Well, you’d think that parental supervision and PC-based filtering, applied by parents to computers to which their children have access, would be a far more effective way of stopping children seeing porn than just hoping you can somehow distinguish between children and adults’ internet access from the level of government, but that’s not the point Hamilton’s trying to make. The prurient first five paragraphs are simply to disturb parents and panic them into supporting whatever hare-brained scheme the government comes up with to “solve” this terrible problem, whatever the cost to their own liberties. (Or real efforts to catch those who would harm their children.)

But first he must smear the scheme’s opponents, so that their quite detailed technical objections to what Conroy’s been able to come up with so far are seen in the most disturbing light.

Some participants in the internet filtering debate do not believe that access to porn on the internet is a problem. One referred to the sorts of images I have described as “naughty pictures”. Others take an extreme libertarian view that people (including children) should be able to view whatever they like.

I don’t know who these “others” are – Clive can’t cite any. (Although, if he is going to use this as a stick with which to bash “extreme libertarians”, you’d think he could at least go through the motions and provide some evidence that pornographic images do actually “cause harm to some or all of the boys and girls” who view them. There is some, right?)

In any case, this is – of course – a shameless misrepresentation of what the filter’s main opponents (EFA and GetUp and the ISPs in particular) have actually been arguing – which is that adults shouldn’t have their access to legal content blocked because unsupervised children might get access to it. Clive disingenuously attacks EFA’s concerns with a weak analogy:

Presumably, EFA would support the repeal of censorship laws that regulate the content of television, films and magazines, so that the types of images I described above — and there are some sick ones I have not mentioned — could be readily seen on cinema screens and television sets or bought at the local newsagent.

Nice try, Clive, but the analogy doesn’t work. The problem is that the only type of mandatory government internet filtering that would prevent children from accessing porn would be the equivalent not of our existing rating system, but of the government simply blocking from sale or broadcast any TV, films or magazines above a “PG” rating, and requiring adults to apply for permission every time they were to wish to view something unsuitable for a child. That’s what’s actually being proposed for the internet.

If you think about it, anything short of that would have no effect on Clive’s initial hypothetical whatsoever – either adults can access adult content, or they can’t. If they can, then kids, using adults’ computers – which they do – will be able to access it also, as in the disturbing little tale Clive spent so much time imagining. The only way to enable adults to view legal material whilst stopping kids is for parents to SUPERVISE their children and install PC-based monitoring software. (Which the government already provides for free.) If they can’t, then the government might as well ban all films in Australia rated higher than PG. After all, you never know when a kid’s going to go through his parents’ DVD collection and watch Terminator or something, even though the OFLC thinks he’s too young for it. How can you absolutely ensure this doesn’t happen except by preventing adults from ever owning such a non-PG film; by blocking them all at the border? That’s the equivalent.

And, whilst the EFA and GetUp want adults to be able to access adult material, they’ve also been very clear that they don’t want kids accessing it – which is why they support the only measures that will actually help. The smear that they’re indifferent to kids watching porn is beneath contempt.
Hoping he’s persuaded his audience to treat these dodgy children-accessing-porn promoters with suspicion, next Clive attempts to persuade them to disregard all the technical problems these disturbing people have raised:

Although there are plenty of reasonable people who believe on balance that filtering is a mistake, the extreme libertarians and ISP executives who dominate the debate often indulge in absurd exaggerations.

Get Up told its members that testing has begun on “systems that will slow our internet by up to 87 per cent, make it more expensive, miss the vast majority of inappropriate content and accidentally block up to 1 in 12 legitimate sites”.

These figures are picked out from the worst-performing filter from earlier pilot tests. Scare-mongering does not get more blatant than this. Why would the Government mandate the worst filter when the best slowed performance by only 2 per cent? If mandatory filtering slowed the internet by 87 per cent I would be out there protesting against it too.

The one that only slowed performance by 2 per cent was one of the least accurate. On those tests, the Government would have the following choice: block significant amounts of legal material but do it quickly, or do it more thoroughly and block less legal material, but significantly degrade performance.

Funnily enough, whilst reassuring us that there’s a quicker filter, Clive declines to point out that it barely works.

But technical arguments are not the point of his article – Hamilton knows he’s on a losing wicket with them.

Instead, this article is a flimsy attempt to reframe the debate – not between people who honestly disagree on what the best means is for protecting children from accessing pornography, but between people who DO NOT CARE ABOUT CHILDREN and those who are appalled at the idea of a boy sitting down at a computer and reading the first five paragraphs of Clive Hamilton’s article. (To be honest, I’m not sure it’s such a good thing for an adult to be exposed to the rest of it.) He knows this isn’t the case – he could hardly be following the debate and believe that the filter’s main opponents are advocating for children to have access to porn; at the very least you’d think he’d have noticed when he was completely unable to quote them saying anything of the sort – but, because it suits his polemical purposes, he’s happy to smear them anyway. He wants parents to view anyone critical of the filter as somehow in favour of their little Timmy being exposed to all those nasty things he spends so much time describing. Despite knowing that it isn’t true. “Scare-mongering does not get more blatant than this?” No, it doesn’t.

Clive includes a little sop for friendly critics of the ALP – “Although there are plenty of reasonable people who believe on balance that filtering is a mistake” – but it’s clearly an insincere throwaway in the context of the rest of the article.

So whilst Clive’s disingenuous rant has already been comprehensively savaged elsewhere, it deserves a response here as a prime example of the sort of poisonous, dishonest rhetoric that has no place in serious public discussion. It’s an attempt to drag discussion of an actual government proposal down a little side-alley where strawman uber-libertarians can be beaten up by Moral Majority types who will then pretend that a victory there has some bearing on the very real and pressing issue of what precisely Conroy is planning to do to the internet.

What little Hamilton’s piece has to do with that discussion is either wrong or misleading.

It deserves to be mocked for the contempt with which it treats not only Hamilton’s targets, but his readers – and then ignored.

UPDATE: Apparently the government no longer provides the net filtering software for free (hence the strikethrough above) – presumably because it’s redirected its “saving children from viewing porn” efforts to the government’s daft ISP-level filter idea instead. A second way in which, by taking money and energy away from programs that actually do protect children, Conroy’s scheme actually makes them less safe.

Andrew Bolt

Feb 21, 2009

5 comments

  1. Announce that regular commenters at your blog have had their names stolen by trolls, with racist comments posted in those names. 

    ALERT: We have detected in past two days a number of new readers – or old readers using new fake names – posing as racists and claiming to be my keenest supporters. This is clearly an attempt to produce trumped-up evidence for someone then to claim that this blog encourages racism, when – as you know – the reality is that I am militantly against it, whether racism of the old kind or the New Racism of the Left.

  2. Get your mate to re-post the announcement on his blog and make not-so-subtle suggestions about the involvement of a new blog that you both dislike.

    Andrew Bolt is hit by racist fakery… Interesting that this has happened over the past two days; possibly someone is encouraging this kind of thing.

  3. Leave a comment at the new blog from an anonymous Brazilian IP address highlighting these racist comments.

Problem is, we’re not publishing that comment because it’s clearly an attempt to smear us with a conspiratorial sting that exists only in the minds of two rattled News Ltd. bloggers. FAIL.